Heather blogs about body positive outdoor adventure & loves taking her blue heeler on outdoor adventures.
Dogs Can Make Enjoyable Hiking Companions
Hiking is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities for most people. Depending on the trail and duration, most people can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors by simply walking.
Along with enjoying hiking, people love their furry, four-legged friends and enjoy taking them wherever they go. Dogs are great companions and are a comfort for most in the outdoors. Taking your dog on these adventures can enrich their lives as much as yours; just do so responsibly. There are some important considerations and preparations to make in order to ensure a successful, safe, and enjoyable hike with your dog.
Rules and Regulations
Before taking your dog hiking on a trail, I strongly advise you to educate yourself on rules and regulations about having animals accompany you on the trail. Some National Parks and Forests have restrictions and rules that are strongly enforced: where your dog can hike, what trails they cannot be on, if they can even be on the trail at all, if they need a leash, and if they are even allowed within the area at all.
You can look up this information with a simple Google search for dog rules and regulations in the National Park or Forest where you're planning to go. If dogs are allowed, you can bet a few rules will be in place, and if they are not, I highly recommend doing a few things.
- Have appropriate dog tag identification, vaccination records, rabies tags & certification, and a recent photograph.
- Have a trowel for "leave no trace" practices for your dog or doggie poop bags and pack out.
- Use a non-retractable, durable heeling leash around 6 feet.
- Make sure your dog wears a well-fitting collar or harness
- Consider a bear bell. Some parks and forests require dogs to wear bear bells to lessen the chances of bear encounters. I'd recommend these whenever you're hiking in areas where bears are possible in order to avoid an encounter.
My Favorite Hiking Leash
Hydration and Food Requirements
Just as nutrition and hydration are important for you, it's very important for your dog as well. I have found it beneficial to pack 50% more dog food and snacks than what my dog normally eats. Your dog will be burning off calories as much as you, if not more.
It's also advisable to bring along at least one quart of water for every 3 miles of a hike for your dog. I also recommend that if you come to a water source and can fill up water reservoirs, go ahead and do so. Filter the water as well—even for your dog, who needs clean water, too.
I've also heard of some people taking along a small amount of Pedialyte to add to your dog's water to avoid dehydration. It's extremely important for you to be educated on the signs of dehydration for your dog to avoid any problems and know how to intervene and take action!
Taking along a collapsible water and food bowl will be helpful to refuel your dog's nutrition needs and allow them to hydrate as well. I recommend allowing your dog to take a drink every 15 minutes to an hour; this will also depend on how hot it is and how hard your dog is working.
Don't forget to take along some high-quality dog food and nourishing snacks for your dog as well. My favorite dog food for my dog is a grain-free dehydrated dog food for less weight. You could also try making your own dehydrated, raw dog food as well! Snacks I like to bring along are homemade treats, dried blueberries, dehydrated sweet potato slices, and natural, non-additive, sugar-free, peanut butter.
Dog safety is another key aspect to making sure you have a fun and enjoyable hike with your dog.
First and foremost, I advise having a dog-specific first aid kit that will contain items relevant to a dog's needs in case of minor injury while on the trail. Depending on how badly your dog is injured, it may also be beneficial to have a packable muzzle as dogs who are hurt can become aggressive, even your own!
I've seen some folks have their dogs wear dog-specific booties to protect their sensitive paws. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I understand how booties may help your dog have a more comfortable hike over some terrain; but on the other hand, you're in nature, and your dog walks on dirt, rocks, grass, and all sorts of things all the time. Just use your own personal determination on this. It's nice knowing that such an item exists for your dog.
Insects and ticks can be a major nature buzzkill for your dog as well. I always have a tick key on hand to remove ticks safely from my dog, and I make sure they have had preventative tick and flea medication as well. You can discuss with your veterinarian the appropriate tick and flea prevention that's most suitable for the area you live in or will be hiking into.
There are several products I've seen on the market for dogs to repel insects. I've seen everything from natural sprays to breathable shield tanks to using bandannas that have the ability to repeal those pesky flying jerks! I'd pop into your local pet supply store and ask about the best solution for insects for your dog.
Along with pests and bugs that your dog will not enjoy dealing with is another type of hitchhiker: entangled seeds and plant matter. I like having a brush or comb available to brush out my dog's coat before hopping back into my truck. I also have handy bathing wipes to wipe down my dog's coat and help with getting rid of poisonous plant residue. I also will give my dog a bath when we get home as well.
Above all else, have fun with your dog and use the tips and ideas provided to make the experience a positive one. Being well-prepared will limit the chances of an awful experience!
Always remember that other hikers without dogs have the right of way. Move to the side with your dog and allow others to pass.
If you're not sure how your dog will react to being around others while hiking, test the waters by taking your dog to local parks and have them interact with new people often.
© 2018 Heather Vargas
Heather Vargas (author) from Colorado on August 04, 2019:
Hi there! I'm so happy you found my article informative! I would love to see those infographics! Sounds like a fun project! Cheers to boundless adventure in the outdoors!
Karthik S on July 23, 2019:
I was looking for some information to create an infographic on Hiking with dogs and came across your site.
Very informative and thanks for taking the effort. After completing the infographics., I would like to share it.
Prepare Your Pup
Preparing a dog for a hike is the best way to start on the right foot. A visit to the vet is recommended to ask any questions you may have beforehand.
Talk to your vet to see if your breed is a good hiking companion. Younger and older dogs may not be the best hiking dogs. Their immune system is something you will want to keep in mind.
Puppies’ bones are still growing, which may cause too much stress. Older dogs will have trouble keeping up and slow you down on your hike.
There are many parasites and bacteria when on the trail that could cause harm to your dog. Parasites such as Leptospirosis and giardia live in ponds, lakes, rivers, standing water, and soil. Make sure you stay up to date on vaccinations and use veterinarian-approved parasite preventative measures.
The Dos And Don’ts of Hiking With Your Dog And Other Pets
@sydney_chan and her pet Scout on hike 2 of their #52HikeChallengePetSeries
Step into nature with your four-legged friend and enjoy all the benefits!
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Lose weight and build muscle
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Bring even more joy to your daily life
- Strengthen bonds between you and your pet
When you bring your dog, cat, goat, hedgehog, etc. on your hikes, it can be a very special and rewarding experience for both of you. It will be difficult to tell who loves it more — you or your pet!
Hiking with dogs is especially popular because canines usually love long walks with lots of unique smells.
Pets of 52: @nanuk_thepit enjoying nature, captured by @allyandthepittybunch
Before long, your dog will learn (and love) the word “hike,” and you’ll have to start spelling it out to keep their ears from perking up.
Undoubtedly, hiking is a great way for you to bond with your pet. Plus, hiking with dogs and other pets can be very motivational. It will encourage you to get outside and go that extra mile.
Have you hiked with a pet before? Do you know the dos and don’ts of bringing pets on the trail?
In order for hiking with dogs and other pets to be enjoyable, it’s important for you to be informed.
In this blog, you will learn how to hike with your pet responsibly. Keep yourself, your pet, and others safe by learning The Dos and Don'ts of Hiking With Pets right now.
Few examples from hiking with a dog
My trust in my Alaskan Malamute called Viima is firm like a rock. Viima has never been an especially good housedog because its energy levels are off the charts. Training has also been a challenge because it doesn’t have any interest in toys, food makes it hyper, and outside it can’t concentrate on even walking on a leash. However, when we are out in the nature, Viima’s mind is human-like, just like the mind of my late Samoyed Welho. Viima knows when it’s time to work, and its work motivation is incredible. During joring or hikes it never allows for anything to distract its work.
When going downhill, Viima mainly sets itself behind me or next to me in case I need support against slipping. Viima knows when my blood sugar is low, so it knows to bark and tell me to stop and eat – I never really notice the hunger myself. When we were hiking at the Kaldoaivi wilderness area at the northernmost tip of Finland, Viima sensed a bear near us long before we did. Viima kept itself between us and the bear the entire trek. There was no danger to any of us but Viima clearly wanted to ensure that nothing happened. When we got to the wilderness hut, Viima guarded the door as long as the bear was in the vicinity. Last winter at Isojärvi national park, Viima picked up some pine branches from the forest and lay on top of them to sleep so that its fur would stay dry.
I have hundreds of examples to give you from hiking with a dog, but it all boils down to the fact that I trust my dog’s instincts much more than I do my own. My trust has only increased when I have gotten to know its gestures from even the slightest change. I’ve also learned to do things on the terms of my dog: if my dog decides that it wants a day off, that’s what we will do. Or if it wants to take another route, then that’s probably what we will do because there may be a very good reason for my dog to act like this. So, make sure you learn to interpret your dog well because on hikes and treks, it may even end up saving your life.
Follow Ella and her adventures on Instagram at ellashiking!
- Ella’s earlier post: Trekking at Urho Kekkonen National Park, part 1
- Ella’s earlier post: Overnight visit to Isojärvi National Park in winter
- Oittaa in Espoo is an example of a place where you can train skijoring with your dog in winter.
Hiking with Your Dog
Not only is hiking great exercise for you and your dog, but it’s a special way to bond with your beloved pet while enjoying nature together. However, it’s important to keep the safety of your pet in mind at all times. Just like humans, dogs tire easily and can be at risk for heat stroke, especially on a hot day. Trail hazards such as steep, uneven terrain and aggressive wildlife can be dangerous for pets. Here are five tips to consider before you head out on your next hiking adventure:
1. Make sure your dog is healthy enough to hike
Use good judgment and don’t bring pets along that aren’t fit for hiking. When you take into account factors like breed, size, personality, and age, not all dogs make suitable hiking companions. Hiking is a strenuous activity that should not be undertaken by dogs that can’t handle rigorous activity. Steep and uneven terrain can be difficult and dangerous for some pets to navigate.
If you want your pup to carry some of the hiking equipment, train him well in advance. Start by putting lighter packs on his back and take short walks and then build up to heavier loads. Dogs in top physical condition should be able to carry up to 25 percent of their body weight. 1 Check with your vet and make sure your dog (especially if he’s small) is physically healthy enough to hike and carry a pack.
2. Keep dogs leashed and stay on designated trails
Always verify that dogs are permitted on a hiking trail before departing. You should be aware that most national and state parks do not allow dogs. 2 When mapping out your hike, do research online or contact the managing agency and ask if their trails are dog-friendly. Even if dogs aren’t required by law to be on a leash, it’s a good idea to keep them leashed for their protection.
When hiking, be respectful of other hikers and dogs and don’t stray from designated trails. Make sure to keep an eye on your dog and don’t let him wander off. Between wild animals and poisonous snakes and plants, keeping your dog close by your side will prevent mishaps.
3. Let Your Dog take frequent rest breaks while hiking
Make sure to stop frequently along the trail to offer your dog water and occasional treats. On hot days, keep in mind that dogs can be at risk for heatstroke. Do not feed your dog right before or after hiking because they could get sick. Feed them at least one hour before or 30 minutes after hiking. 3
It’s especially important to keep dogs safe around water sources. Don’t allow your dog to swim in or drink from unsafe water because he can become ill due to harmful parasites or algae in the water. If you hike in remote areas and don’t have access to safe, clean water, pack plenty of bottled water or bring along a portable water purifier.
4. Respect the environment and pick up after your dog
Respect the environment and your fellow hikers by picking up after your dog along hiking trails. Use pet waste bags and throw them away in trash cans or safely bury pet waste at least 200 feet away from trails, water sources and campsites. 4 Some hiking trails provide biodegradable dog waste bags, but it might be easier and more efficient to purchase them ahead of time at a pet supply store.
5. Pack plenty of pet supplies for your hiking trip
Your goal might be to travel lightly, but when packing hiking supplies for your dog it’s better to have more than less. Here’s a list of items to carry with you:
- Food and treats
- Safe drinking water
- Collapsible food and water bowls
- Disposable waste bags
- Pet first aid kit
- Pet insect repellent
- Protective dog clothing and booties
Being in nature with your dog is a deeply rewarding experience and one that creates lasting memories and a special bond. The only caveat is to be smart, safe and well prepared, because if an accident occurs in nature it can take longer to seek veterinary care for your dog.